Bock’s Score: To Tank or Not To Tank

Mark Cuban’s chronic case of foot-in-mouth disease surfaced again the other day and it cost him a cool $600,000 in fines from NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Cuban is the high profile owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a team wondering through the depths of the NBA standings, well removed from playoff contention, well removed, in fact, from relevance.

Not to worry. Cuban is Mr. Fixit when it comes to problems like this. In a recent dinner with some of his players, the owner reflected on the Mavs’ situation and offered a solution.

“Look,’’ he told the players, “losing might be our best option.’’

The more games Dallas loses, the more ping pong balls the Mavs earn in the crazy quilt NBA draft. The more ping pong balls, the better chance at a lottery draft choice where the best college players are up for grabs.

So, instead of the old Al Davis Oakland Raiders’ slogan of “Just win, baby,’’ Cuban was offering an alternative. “Just lose baby.’’

Now in a little private soiree with his players, Cuba might have gotten away with his suggestion to tank games. But the owner’s chatty side got in the way when he was appearing on a podcast hosted by Hall of Famer Julius Erving and Cuban just couldn’t wait to confess.

“I’m probably not supposed to says this,’’ Cuban said to Dr. J, “but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are. We weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, `Losing is our best option.’’’

Cuban chose to announce this private conversation publicly on the night of the NBA All-Star Game, one of the league’s showcase events. It was, shall we say, a poor choice of timing. Commissioner Silver imposed the fine, saying, Cuban’s pubic statements were detrimental to the NBA.


The Mavs’ sad sack record isn’t Cuban’s only problem. There is the matter of a report that former team president Terdema Ussery engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct during his time in the team’s front office. Ussery worked for the Mavs for 18 years until 2015.

Then there is Earl Sneed, a reporter for the team’s website, twice accused of domestic assault while working for the team. Sneed was fired along with human resources director Buddy Pittman as Cuban sought to improve the team’s working environment. As for the team’s playing environment, well, he had a different solution. It is called tanking.

It’s not as if the Mavs would tank forever, Cuban explained. Just long enough to collect the most ping pong balls. That would be the benefit of finishing with the worst record.

Drafting in reverse order of won-loss record is also the way other leagues conduct their drafts. When the Cleveland Browns won just one game in 2016, they had the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL draft.

They made the pick and the responded by going winless last season and earning the No. 1 pick again in this year’s draft. No tanking was necessary. No ping pong balls, either. The Browns did it the old fashioned way – by trying to win but losing instead.

There are, you see, no guarantees in sports.  That’s something Mark Cuban and the Mavericks might soon find out, tanking notwithstanding.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock is a contributor with NY Sports Day. He has covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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